You know the usual suspects on the Reds: Votto, Chapman, Phillips, Latos, Bruce, Choo, and so on and so forth. None of them are really going to be an x-factor this year, because everyone is counting on them to be a huge part of the team. So when looking for someone a bit under the radar to make an impact on such a star-studded team, you've got to think about more than the usual suspects.
My x-factor for the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 is Devin Mesoraco.
Mesoraco was a highly touted prospect that fell on his face last season, largely because of his defensive shortcomings behind the plate. His bat also didn't show up like expected, and as a result, he spent 2012 as Cincinnati's backup catcher to Ryan Hanigan. But things are changing this spring, and Mesoraco seems primed to earn some more playing time with the Reds and make a huge impact. Mesoraco's defensive skills have taken a step forward across the board this spring. He's smashing the hell out of the ball, if you're into looking at spring stats.
Perhaps more importantly, Hanigan hasn't had a good spring. He injured his oblique, and has missed about a week of action thusfar. An injury like that is something that can linger, especially with a catcher who relies so much on throwing. Plus, at 32-years old, Hanigan might be feeling that more than he would have if he were Mesoraco's age.
Back to Mesoraco, he really didn't give Dusty Baker much incentive to play him last season. He wasn't a good defender, was actually a worse hitter than Hanigan (who had a whopping .063 ISO last season), and even lost his backup job over the season's final month to veteran Dioner Navarro. If Mesoraco is able to get into a groove offensively this year, he can claim that starting role in Cincinnati and push Hanigan to the role of a defensive-minded backup, which is probably his best role at the end of the day.
Reds on TOC
End of Season Postmortem
2013 Season Preview
You May Say I'm a Dreamer
2013 Burning Question
This Is My Nightmare